As March is fast approaching and bringing about Women’s History Month, it feels right to take a look back LGBT History Month, which occurs in every February in the United Kingdom. Although there are many arguments against minority history months, such as the belief that they serve as a reminder of difference and maintain lines of segregation within historical thinking, such minority history months have many benefits and teach us a lot about groups that we may or may not identify with.
LGBT History Month was kick-started in the UK by Sue Sanders and the charity ‘Schools Out’ back in 2005. The Metropolitan Police Services and the Crown Prosecution Service, as well as Amnesty International, are essential in developing the sustainability of this month. February was chosen as it was considered a month that usually saw a lull in the school calendar, therefore it was the prime opportunity for the organisers to make a difference and associate February with a monumental celebration.
There have been many important people and events linked to the concept, such as a reception held by Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street in 2009, a pre-launch event held in the Tate Modern and the Royal Courts of Justice. Notable patrons alongside Gordon Brown include actor Ian McKellen.
LGBT History Month became possible due to the abolition of Section 28, which was heavily campaigned for by ‘Schools Out’. Section 28 prohibited local authorities from promoting homosexuality, or from suggesting that a homosexual family could be considered as “normal”. Thankfully, 2005 saw the removal of Section 28 and the beginning of the massive political and sociological advances, which the LGBT community has begun to experience over the last decade.
So that is the history of the month, but what does it mean for us today? Well, here at Royal Holloway February has been a very strong month in terms of promoting LGBT rights and awareness. On the first of February, the Amnesty International Society, in collaboration with LGBT+ Society organised a protest outside the Russian Embassy in London against the anti-LGBT legislation in Russia and in support of the subsequent controversy surrounding the Sochi Winter Olympics. In addition the LGBT+ Society organised a film festival with different nights, concentrating on each letter under the umbrella term, to encourage solidarity and the discussion of important issues for LGBT individuals today.
Of course, there is always more work to be done. Yet the impact that LGBT History Month has started to make over the last nine years cannot be considered as anything less than a success. Hopefully this progress will continue, particularly for individuals who identify as trans, as this is sadly the area which still needs recognition.